Friday, August 5, 2011

About Tomorrow

I seemed to have missed a day.  Whoops.

So here's my take on publishers right now:  They're essential.

There's a disconnect between how many people view publishers and the people who actually work for them.  Many (if not most) major publishers are now owned by huge media conglomerates.  They're being forced to do more with less.  They have to make money and don't have as much time to nurture the careers of writers as they may have had in the past.

Books have a couple of months to make it, after which they disappear.  There are exceptions (Thirteen Reasons Why springs to mind) but for the most part, books that don't sell well right out of the gate go away.

Because of tightening budgets, a lot of the responsibility for marketing falls to the author.  For Deathday, I built my own websites, had my own bookmarks printed, and spent a lot of time networking to get the word out.  And these were difficult for me.  I work a full time job, plus I was writing, AND I suck at all that small talk nonsense that some people seem to excel at.  Don't get me wrong, I love people.  The people I met through all of this are amazing, but I'm rubbish at hob knobbing.  I'd rather eat a bowl of razor blades than engage in small talk.

My publisher did a lot of work too, but it was mostly behind the scenes stuff.  Sending my ARCs to reviewers and doing the cover art, etc.

The thing is that advances seem to be shrinking and writers are expected to reinvest a significant portion of those advances back into marketing their own book.  After all was said and done, I questioned this practice.

I wondered if publishers were becoming irrelevant.  Obviously, they're not now.  But what about in 5 years?  I could hire an editor, hire an artist to design a cover, send my own book to reviewers.  Right?  Or is that just hubris talking?  Having never worked at a publisher's office, I'm sure there are a million things that go into making books of which I'm unaware.  But if I did it, the rewards could be substantial.

I'm not talking about making tons of money.  I'm talking about being able to control my own destiny.  One of the things that's bothered me about Deathday is that the e-book is priced one dollar less than the paper book.  I've harbored suspicions that if the price dropped to say $4.99, it could help spark interest and increase sales.  But I'll never know.  I haven't got control over that.  If I'd self-published, I could give it a whirl.  If lower pricing had no effect, I could lower it more, play with it, experiment.

I talked to my best friend and she broke it out into pros and cons for me.  In the pro list, I'd be able to publish some of the quirky projects that I seemed to come up with on a regular frequency.  Maybe they'd sell, maybe not, but the same could be said of any book published traditionally.  I'd also receive a much larger cut of the books I sold.  I'd be in control.

In the con list, I'd have to do all the work.  I'd never be able to find my book in a Barnes and Noble.  I'd never be considered for an award or get the kind of professional recognition that most people crave.

Maybe someday soon, there will be a merging of traditional publishing and quality self-publishing.  But that day isn't here yet, and self-publishing almost guarantees failure.  A small percentage make it.  Some do modestly well.  But I think most do not.

I don't know where things in the business stand now.  They're in flux.  Most writers I know are barely hanging in there.  Amazing books are being passed on by the big chains, book contracts are being cancelled, great authors are considering themselves failures when that couldn't be further from the truth.  What is true is that publishers are taking fewer risks.  They are taking some.  I was a risk.

So I don't know what the future holds.  For now, I've decided to keep trucking on in the traditional world.  Agents are amazing folk who do great work.  All the editors I've met are hard working, brilliant people.  For now, I think that sticking with them is the best way to produce the best work.

But I've also decided to try going it alone.  Under a pen name.  With a different kind of book than I usually write.  Just to see what's going on out there.  I can make all kinds of predictions but until I've gone through the process, it's all conjecture.  And as I go through that process, I'll document it all here.  This blog started as a means to track my journey from unpublished slob to published slob.  It's been an amazing journey that I hope lasts forever.  We'll see.

Happy Friday.


  1. I've personally never read a self-published novel that stood up to The Marbury Lens, Open Wounds, or The Deathday Letter.

    That doesn't mean there isn't one out there, but it would take work, or incredible circumstance, to find it, I think.

    We'll see.

  2. No matter what you do, you'll always have a fand base with me!

  3. Clever approach. It would be interesting to go through the self-publishing process just to see what's truth and what isn't.

    As to the role of publishers, I think most writers write because, whether they admit it or not, they crave the approbation of others. We want people, as many as possible, to read our work. An interesting blend of arrogance (takes a lot to think other people would give a hoot about we have to say) and childlike fears of inadequacy, when you think about it.

    It's that need for affirmation that fuels publishing. People think they can get it quickly via self-publishing, but my suspicion is that most who self-publish will remain unfulfilled due to poor sales. I expect publishers will be kept very busy for a long time.

  4. I really appreciated your post on traditional publishing. Agents are wonderful: I wish I had one.

    Nevertheless, it's a little creepy how everything is owned by conglomerates. It kind of makes me want to hide in the basement with a tin foil hat duct-taped to my head.

  5. Love the way you looked at this issue from all sides. I've seen some quality self-published books like you mentioned, but definitely a LOT more of the mire agents are often complaining about. I'd like to go the traditional route, but it does feel a little like the sky is falling out here.

  6. That's what I've done :) I publish traditionally and self-publish under a pen name. I love being on both sides of the fence :) And I ditto what Cole said - I'll always be a fan :D


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